I was one of the audience members attending the Penticton City Council meeting Tuesday, April 18, and I am also a member of the board of directors of ASK Wellness Society (ASK), a regional health and housing charitable organization.
A partnership between Ooknakane Friendship Centre, B.C. Housing, and ASK has resulted in the building of a housing project on Skaha Lake Road called Snpaʔx̌təntn. When fully complete, the project will provide safe, supportive housing for up to 52 people who are committed to sobriety and addictions recovery.
I appreciated the opportunity for our executive director, Bob Hughes, to speak to council along with Shauna Fox, the executive director of Ooknakane Friendship Centre. What I didn’t fully understand, however, was the purpose of some of the questions, especially those from Coun. James Miller.
Coun. Miller appeared to be more concerned with the address printed on Bob Hughes’ driver’s licence than he was with the number of people that will be positively impacted by this housing project. Rather than focus on the Who, What, Why and When, Coun. Miller focused on the Where of the person sitting before him. Never mind that Bob has family living here in Penticton, never mind that Bob has resided here previously, and never mind that ASK has operated here under his leadership for six years.
As one of two Penticton representatives on the board of directors of ASK, I can tell you my address is only a block away from City Hall. I can tell you there are many employees of ASK who have driver’s licenses with Penticton addresses. I can tell you there are many more employees of ASK Wellness who do not have the luxury of residing in Penticton because they cannot afford to live here as they are also casualties of the housing crisis.
But I can also tell you that of the 52 people who find themselves among the lucky ones to become housed at Skaha Lake Road (and the many, many more who won’t be so lucky yet), there are dozens that simply don’t have addresses at all. On job application forms they may have to write No Fixed Address or have to give the address of a temporary shelter. They may be the ones who are forced to “move along, move along” from one doorway to the next, trying to make themselves invisible to placate those who equate a residential address with their worth as a human being.
For Coun. Miller to focus on the address of Bob Hughes while discussing a project that will provide housing for people who don’t have addresses at all suggests he is completely tone-deaf to the real issue being discussed: how we as a society are trying to help those who have no address at all.
And it is all just a little ironic to be discussing where Bob is “from” when the housing project is being operated in conjunction with First Nations to whom we are all immigrants.
S. Paul Varga,
ASK Wellness Society director